Sunday, February 9, 2020

Looking Back at 2019

Is it Oscar Night already? Didn’t this used to be at the end of the month? *sigh* I don’t who reads this, or if anyone cares, but if you’re wondering why I do this, it is mostly for me. I started this right before being enlisted for the Dark Discussions Podcast, and that’s really been where I get to say my piece on things. It kinda takes the motivation for writing out of me. But I would like to be able to look back and see what I was thinking, and these really have been helpful for me with the podcast. So if you’re reading this and enjoying it, that’s great, and thank you. If not… well, ok. 

By most accounts, this has been a pretty stellar year for films. The 9 Oscar nominees are solid, and many could have won in past years with relative ease. We have films from different genres, with big names, and big box office. I mean, I love The Shape of Water, but I can’t help thinking a movie about a maid having sex with the Gill-Man winning the Academy Award for Best Picture is going to puzzle film historians in a few decades. Or even Thursday. Sure, Little Women probably deserved a nomination, and Uncut Gems and Midsommar too, but that’s a fight for other people. I’m just glad there were so many good films out there.

The same holds true for most people about genre pics. I’ve said before, I’ll say again – we’re in a new Golden Age for horror films. Their success at the box office, in-theater entertainment value, plus the plethora of indie films and venues to stream just has opened up flood gates for the genre. Sure, there’s a ton of crap out there, which, I’m glad to say, I have mostly avoided, but no one sets out to make a bad film (well, maybe Asylum and SyFy). It is almost always a convergence of talent and serendipity that makes a classic film; it is almost impossible to do on demand. By having a wide open market of hundreds or thousands of movies, the odds of striking gold increases. The last few years have born that out.

That said, I found this year a bit disappointing in the genre, and so have my co-hosts. We do consider ourselves a diverse quintet of middle-class white people from the northeastern US, but every now and then our opinions converge in a way that runs contrary to the mainstream. This year, we were kind of down on the selection of films. For me, I know my viewing was down -  85 films compared to 99 in 2018 – which, when you add in the various tv series I’ve binge-watched is still an insane amount of entertainment hours – but I don’t know that I had any huge gaps in my genre viewing.  When sorting out my list on Letterboxd, I was surprised just how deep the selections ran, and how hard it was to get a top 20. It may have been the deepest year in the 8 we’ve been doing the podcast, but really there weren’t many films that truly “spoke to me” the way The Ritual, Hereditary, and Mom and Dad did last year.

If anyone is interested in my complete list you can check out my Letterboxd lists:
 (Please keep in mind the rankings are entirely subjective according to how I felt the last time I looked at it. Today, they would probably be different).

If you want to hear the thoughts of the whole Dark Discussions crew, you can find them here in a few days:

So, without further ado, here’s my award winners for 2019:

Favorite Film of 2019: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Favorite Horror Film: Midsommar Long and slow and predictable, but it held my attention throughout. Just a beautifully crafted film, and it proves that Ari Aster is no fluke.

Runner Up: Tumbbad An Indian horror film that slides into the “folk tale” subgenre. A lesson in the dangers of greed, it has some real pants-soiling moments. It might be a bit inscrutable at first, but stick with it and everything will be explained.

Another Runner Up: Tigers Are Not Afraid Is this a horror film? Not sure. Certainly has elements. Part horror, part fantasy, part drama, this tale of a group of children orphaned by the drug wars in Mexico is one of the most imaginative films of the year.

Favorite Science Fiction Film: Freaks Released very briefly into theaters, this is a solid film that will likely appeal to classic X-Men fans as well.

Favorite Comic Book Film: Joker To be honest I’m tired of “serious takes” on comic-book movies that take the comic-book elements out of the films, but this ended up so much better than I expected. Endgame was solid, but a little bit of step down from Infinity War.
 Runner Up: Avengers Endgame

Favorite Action Film: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum The weakest entry of the series, but still the best action film of the year. Let’s hope they can stick the landing with Chapter 4.

Favorite Comedy: Jojo Rabbit Yeah a feel good coming of age film about a Hitler Youth with the  Fuhrer himself as his imaginary playmate. Yeah, it gets dark, and its hard to peg it as a straight comedy, but I damn well want to recognize it for something.
               Runner Up: Parasite We at Dark Discussions have loved Bong-Joon Ho for years. I still 
 think Snowpiercer is my favorite of his, but this dark satire deserves its accolades.

Favorite Zombie Film: Little Monsters

Favorite Stephen King Film: Doctor Sleep

Favorite Horror Comedy: Ready or Not (Runner Up: Satanic Panic)

Favorite Post-Modern Slasher:  The Furies

Favorite Religious Horror: The Golem

Favorite Creature Feature: Sweetheart

Favorite Horror Remake: Child’s Play

Favorite New Potential Franchise: Knives Out (Runner Up: Brightburn)
Worst Movie:  Cats
               Runner Up: No, still Cats

Single Creepiest Anything Horror I Saw This Year: "The Head in the House", Creepshow episode 1.

Best Title in History of Cinema:

Hero of the Year: Sam Waterson, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot
               Runner Up: Fat Thor

Villain of the Year: Children. Seriously. The Golem. Freaks. Eli. Ready or Not. Satanic Panic. Hole in the Ground. Satanic Panic. The Prodigy. Murderous little bastards were everywhere.

Scream Queen of the Year: Samara Weaving (Ready or Not)

Best Ending: In a year in which many thought Game of Thrones and Star Wars shit the bed, massive accolades to Marvel Studios for sticking the super-hero landing in Avengers Endgame.
               Runner Up: Eli It takes a lot to surprise me. This did, and I was on guard for it.

Worst Ending: Suspiria

Kill of the Year: The axe to the face in The Furies.
               Runner Up: Dropping Uncle Badger (Brightburn)
Best Horror Scene Outside a Horror Movie: Jojo meets a Jew (Jojo Rabbit)

Most Disturbing: The dogs (Chernobyl).

Most Uncomfortable Moment: Dad having "the talk" with Brandon. Seriously, has this ever gone well? (Brightburn)
               Runner Up: Old lady giving Chris a push (Midsommar)

Best Monsters: Hellboy

Most Fabulous Costume Ever: Sam Rockwell (Jojo Rabbit)

Deserved Better: Doctor Sleep

Most Sleep Inducing: Ad Astra

Cameo of the Year: What We Do In the Shadows episode 7 "The Trial." No one was shocked that the cast of the already-classic 2014 film appeared in the FX spinoff series, but adjudicating the murder of a master vampire requires a truly elite jury. Over a half dozen more familiar faces join the original trio to pass sentence on our hapless heroes. Don't spoil it before you watch it.

Career Boost: Lupita Nyong’o, Us, Little Monsters

Career Block: Anyone who had anything to do with this:

Biggest Surprise: Quality superhero TV- Watchmen, The Boys, Umbrella Academy, Doom Patrol

Biggest Disappointment: It Chapter Two

Didn’t See That Coming: Baby Yoda

Time To Put It Down: Terminator franchise.

Best Movie That I Didn’t Like: The Lighthouse Robert Egger’s follow up to The Witch is impeccably crafted, but the thin narrative didn’t work for me.

Best Movies That I Probably Won’t Ever See: Marriage Story and Little Women.

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